Don’t let Big Tobacco supporters off the hook

Now that a federal court has stated what most Americans have known for years—that Big Tobacco companies are guilty of conspiracy and lying to the public about the risks of smoking so they can continue to generate high profits, it’s time to stop the obvious and unabashed flow of this dirty money into campaigns of those seeking public office or running initiative campaigns.
Thursday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler puts the final nail in Dirty Tobacco’s coffin. It is an industry that is the pinnacle of corruption and promotes a product that is a known insidious killer. Although her ruling offered little in the way of sanctions that Big Tobacco deserved (she cited a recent Court Of Appeals case precluding her from imposing meaningful financial penalties), she didn’t mince any words in issuing her 1653 page opinion.
What she did say, in no uncertain terms, is that over the course of 50 years, Big Tobacco has “lied, misrepresented, and deceived the American public” about the health impacts of smoking and second-hand smoke. In addition, she found that the major tobacco companies “suppressed research, destroyed documents, manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction, and distorted the truth about low-tar and light cigarettes so as to discourage smokers from quitting.”

Although most Americans should not be surprised by these findings, the Judge pronounced after hearing a lenghty and comprehensive trial exposing years of their activities that the industry
“survives and profits from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss and a profound burden on our national healthcare system.”
One would think that with vilification and condemnation of this magnitude, such an industry would simply crawl back under its rock. Not the tobacco industry — those Demons of Death and Destruction. No sir. They come back over and over under cover of various deceptively-named groups to support or oppose candidates or initiatives that advance their business interests.They still put in their millions of dollars into the election process and expect to be rewarded when the time comes.
That is why we will continue to ” follow-the-money” in the November election this year. After all, no half-witted candidate or issue is going to boast that they’re being supported by this lying, deceiving culture of death; but there are far too many who will take their money and do their bidding under cover of darkness.
Dirty industries and corporate rip-offs often hide within the special interest groups that use the phrases “Justice,” “Reform” ” or other cleverly disguised names that in no way tell the real story of who is behind which candidate or issue. It’s time to throw these bums out — and to let the politicians know loud and clear: We don’t care which party you belong to — if you take tobacco money, we won’t support you. This industry and its leaders should be cast out as pariahs with everything they touch being cast out with them.
But threat alone won’t do the trick. Money still drives politics. And today, thanks to our Republican leaders in Washington, it does so more than ever. But until we get Clean Money into the process, we’ll just have to stay ever-vigilant in pointing out what groups or candidates are willing to serve the industries of death. After this week’s ruling in federal court, we need to let Dirty Tobacco know that it can run, but it can’t hide.
Judge Kessler may not have been able to impose a financial death knell on this industry, but we can certainly destroy their operations in the political process. Let’s let California’s politicians and initiative funders know that dirty tobacco money is a no-no and that those who take it will be as tainted with its dirty history as the industry itself.
If the courts can’t pulled the plug on this kind of dishonesty and corruption, then the people must do it themselves.
Now that’s Democracy in action.